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The Legacy of the 2010 South African World Cup

A diving pool with four inches of stagnant water, brand new, purpose-built stadia decommissioned and derelict, an Olympic complex all but neglected, scattered with litter and tarnished by graffiti and bird dropping-stained seats, vacant plazas surrounded by padlocked metal fences and an Olympic village colonized by weeds and dog excrement. This is the unfortunate legacy of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, the unbearable hangover experienced by almost every recent host whose eyes were widened by the prospect of month-long global attention but failed to account for the financial, social and sporting footprints such an encompassing and expensive sporting occasion stipulates.

Press the governing bodies of British athletics, swimming, canoeing and cycling on the facilities and investment they are expecting to receive once the flames of the 2012 London Olympic Games have distinguished and its likely you’ll be met with a uniform response. These four disciplines are set to benefit from millions of pounds of investment that will leave their sports with permanent, contemporary facilities that will be enjoyed by elite athletes and local communities for years to come. “We believe the pool will rejuvenate swimming in the East End of London,” opined the chief executive of British Swimming, David Sparkes, in regards to the new £244 million aquatics centre being constructed in the Olympic Park in Stratford. “It will also be a fantastic training and competition venue,” he added.

The total cost of the centre has tripled from its original price as postulated in the bid to host the event and is £94 million more than previous worst-case estimates. Unfortunately, the majority of British sports will not be profiting from an Olympic legacy, as the flat-pack, temporary stadia will be dismantled, leaving as many as 17 different sporting authorities without a physical structure by which to remember the globe’s largest sports festival. London organisers have legitimized their reluctance to build several new arenas based on the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) request to avoid white elephants, which have plagued almost every previous Olympic host including Beijing, whose 91,000 capacity Bird’s Nest Stadium, purpose built for 2008, regularly remains vacant and has returned just over £50 million of the original £300 million costs since the Games. A paltry figure considering the operational and maintenance fees total around £10million a year, but at least Beijing’s Olympic hangover is being handled with encouragingly greater efficiency than 2004’s host.

But what of the FIFA World Cup, a tournament of similar intensity which requires comparable financial consideration and has an increasing list of victims struggling to overcome the difficulties created by hosting such an elaborate experience. The motivation to bid for such events lies in their perceived ability to generate long-lasting interest in sport in the accommodating country, and propel that nation in to the global consciousness within the context of a particular sport. It is widely-known that Japan is still reeling from a £3billion outlay on ten World Cup venues for 2002, many of which remain under-used, so how is South Africa, the first African nation to host a World Cup, coping with these inevitable issues and how much has been achieved in attempting to implement an enduring and progressive legacy in the country since last summer?

An obvious place to start would be stadiums seeing as they comprised $1.12billion of South Africa’s $3.5billion budget and were conceived with the express intent to provide the physical symbols of the World Cup legacy. It is worth mentioning that for the six years between South Africa’s appointment as hosts and the start of the 2010 tournament, universal press coverage relentlessly predicted that the stadiums would not be ready on time, that visiting fans would be taking their lives into their hands and that FIFA would consider switching venues, so the country’s achievement in delivering such a successful event must not be underestimated. That said, several worrying indicators have emerged pertaining to the future sustainability of the nation’s five new, and five renovated, 50,400 average capacity arenas. In previous years, the hosting nation’s domestic league’s average attendances have swelled by 3,000, whereas in the 2009/2010 season of the ABSA Premiership, South Africa’s top division, attendances rose by a mere 200, with only four out of 212 matches drawing an audience of over 40,000. The ten World Cup locations range from 40,000 to 64,000 seats, and bearing in mind the average attendance at a top professional domestic match is six times smaller, it is clear that the improvement and exposure of South African football after the tournament remained the principle objective for the country’s footballing authorities.

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However, an average of just 6,108 spectators attended Premiership matches in the opening two weeks of the current campaign, having recorded a total of 7,639 for the same period the year before. History suggests that hosting nation’s domestic leagues enhance attendance figures the year following a World Cup, evidenced by the German Bundesliga recording a colossal average attendance of 39,975, substantially higher than any other European league, in the 2006/2007 season succeeding the 2006 tournament. A notable factor in maintaining these impressive results has been the ability to offer fans unbeatable value, with entrance to most top-flight games costing 10Euros and match-tickets which double as free rail passes. Regrettably, the admission fees at most South African Premier League fixtures have increased, and in some cases doubled, from an average of 20Rand to 40, perhaps going some way to explaining why attendances have actually dropped this season, rather than increased to the same extent as previous hosts.

What’s more, the future of Cape Town’s £400million Green Point Stadium lingers in the balance, following the withdrawal of a French-based consortium who had agreed in January of last year to lease the stadium from the city for a 30-year period following the World Cup. The South African SAIL Group and the Stade de France, amalgamated within the Business Venture Investments 1317 consortium, were awarded the long-term contract to operate the venue and to ensure that it remained a sustainable and multi-purpose arena after the 2010 tournament. But in October, the Stade de France retracted their management duties, leaving the stadium in desperate need of support from either the provincial or national government. “We would be irresponsible to not face up to this reality,” explained Morne du Plessis, executive director of the SAIL/Stade de France consortium. “And yes, we made mistakes in the cost assumptions and income opportunities of the stadium.”

It could be argued that FIFA negated their duty of care in regards to the long-term development of South African stadia seeing as the organization pocketed the majority of income raised from global sponsorship deals, media rights and ticket sales. In the stadiums themselves, only official FIFA sponsors, such as Budweiser, were allowed to sell products, despite South Africa being an enormous producer of beer, a potentially lucrative revenue stream which was ignored by international football’s governing body. Additionally, the ten World cup sites were not assembled to the same specifications as other countries’ federations, in that they boast far fewer hospitality suites which prevents the generation of new clients. But perhaps the most conclusive implication that South Africa have failed to deliver sustainable football facilities is the debate which advocates the transfer of rugby, South Africa’s most popular sport, from the Newlands stadium in Cape Town to the Green Point Stadium. In a defeatist sense, this clearly appears to be the most feasible long-term solution, as Newlands no longer represents a suitable arena to support Stormers and Western Province rugby fixtures as well as frequent football and national rugby matches.

Even though this process is necessary to keep the stadium open and used, it demonstrates a destructive departure from the venue’s original purpose. South Africa isn’t suffering from any administrative obstructions that we haven’t previously witnessed with prior World Cup hosts, and the South African Football Association has, to a large extent, achieved what it had initially inspired to. Despite enduring inexorable cynicism, police and the local organising committee were almost entirely vindicated in their assertion that the World Cup would be free of serious crime and disorder. For all the original concerns in a country renowned for violent criminal activity, the belief that they would succeed by swarming public areas with over 40,000 dedicated police proved more prescient than those who predicted a far more tasteless scenario. It is believed that around half-a-million tourists visited the country during the tournament, with as many as 350,000 first time visitors, of which 90% claimed they would return, according to Philip Scheiner of South Africa Migration International. That alone, in terms of helping change the perceptions of potential return visitors, will be hugely beneficial in terms of tourism and inward investment in the future.

Discussion on the pervasive hum of thousands of vuvuzelas will continue, but it would be difficult to argue that South Africa failed to provide a colourful, vivacious atmosphere, evinced most prominently when Siphiwe Tshabalala scored for the hosts against Mexico in the competition’s opening game. Although the tone of succeeding matches relaxed somewhat, mainly due to domestic fans who were relatively new to football, the organizing committee had succeeded in introducing wealthy, predominantly white, middle classes to the sport. Since most observers regard constructive legacies as an imperative contemplation for bidding nations for the world’s grandest events, the 2010 South African World Cup can certainly be considered with much distinction.

The aspiration for nation-building proved to be far more than empty rhetoric, as the united hysteria during the tournament continued to the traditionally ferocious Soweto derby of this season, where Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs fans celebrated together; an unprecedented occurrence. “If you said South Africa – people used to say two things: Nelson Mandela and crime. Now they say Nelson Mandela and the World Cup,” said Danny Jordaan, CEO of the 2010 World Cup, when asked whether the image of South Africa had been improved. And this is where the World Cup has provided its biggest legacy for South Africa. The deliverance of significant infrastructure, organized security and all in the face of overwhelming contempt has altered the perception of the country and the continent. The rationale for hosting the World Cup was to encourage the opinion of South Africa as a country which can deliver on its guarantees, and this has unquestionably been accomplished.

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Article title: The Legacy of the 2010 South African World Cup

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